Ontario takes step backwards on Home Energy Labelling
Yesterday, the Ontario government introduced legislation to repeal the Green Energy Act. The Act is best known for its promotion of renewable energy, but it also included a number of items related to energy efficiency.
A large part of the new proposed legislation actually relates to conservation. This is because the government is maintaining some powers and provisions from the original Act. For instance, maintaining the authority to regulate minimum energy performance standards. This could improve efficiency if the government introduces more efficient standards than the federal government, or sets standards in new areas. On the other hand, it could also lead to weaker standards and unnecessary duplication. There are also provisions for public agencies to submit data and plans on energy and water conservation.
One area of the original Act that was not brought back relates to “home efficiency disclosure”. This gave the government authority to require disclosing information on energy performance prior to the sale of the home. This was never acted upon by the previous government. Building energy labels is a major objective in the federal-provincial Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which aimed to see progress as early as 2019.
Home efficiency disclosure is a good idea because it gives consumers more information on the true cost of a home as well as other amenities such as comfort, noise, and durability. It will increase the energy efficiency of our building stock because upgrades often take place when a building changes owners.
It is not too late for the Ontario government to introduce home energy labelling in a more effective, consumer-friendly way. The new government could decide to explore new approaches and technologies to increase the speed and scale of energy checkups and modeling. This would give consumers the information they should have, while dealing with some of the concerns expressed by real estate industry stakeholders.
A big part of the government’s agenda relates to being on the side of consumers. It makes sense to provide more information on the biggest purchase (a home) most people will make in their life. We encourage the government to consider how they can make home energy labeling better, rather than leaving it behind.